Russia conflict escalates as Putin sends deadly weapon to Ukraine border: ‘Now or never’

Russia: UK warned of consequences of sanctions by expert

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President Putin has sent the notorious Buk-M1 medium-range surface to air missiles to the frontline of the conflict. The Buk became infamous in 2014 after a missile fired from a territory controlled by Russian proxies in eastern Ukraine shot down a Malaysian airline, killing all 298 people aboard.

The news of Mr Putin sending in this deadly weapon does not bode well for peace talks between Russia, the US and Ukraine.

If the Russian President decides to wage a war with Ukraine, it will need to take a number of steps, which includes establishing fuel supply lines and opening field hospitals.

However, air-defence systems such as the Buk would play a crucial role in protecting Russia’s heavy weaponry and troops near the front.

This news comes even as US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart seemed to make apparent progress in peace talks last week.

The Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) is an online research group that used social media, railway schedules and other data to reveal details of Russia’s military buildup on the border.

They wrote: “These data allow us to conclude that despite the negotiations between Biden and Putin, the concentration of Russian troops in the areas bordering the territory controlled by the Ukrainian authorities continues.”

Even if he does not launch a full-scale invasion, experts suggest Mr Putin may be leaving his troops and the Buk near the frontline as leverage for negotiations.

However, Russian and western analysts also agree that this military buildup is a dire warning about a series of future crises over Ukraine.

Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of the political analysis firm R.Politik said: “Even if Putin gets something from the West, serious talks or discussions about guarantees – will that be enough for Putin?

“We are witnessing the dawn of a new geopolitical adventurism from Russia.”

With over 175,000 personnel now ready in the region, the US has warned allies the Russian leader may be planning a renewed invasion for real this time.

In the past few days alone, Mr Putin has likened Ukraine’s policy in the Donbas, the border region where Russia has led a slow-burning separatist war since 2014, to “genocide” – words Kyiv fears may be a pretext to invade.

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The US has shared intelligence to convince even the most sceptical European allies that Mr Putin may be prepared to make good on Russia’s quasi-imperial ambitions early next year but has yet to conclude precisely when or if he may give the order to invade.

Officials and analysts in Washington and Europe, and even people close to the Kremlin in Moscow, admit Putin’s true intentions with Ukraine remain a mystery.

Ms Stanovaya says: “This is his life’s work. Everything he’s done as president has been about fighting Nato expansion.”

She added: “So now he thinks it’s either now or never.”

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